When the unfortunate news of rising cine star from my home town Sushant Singh Rajput allegedly committing suicide broke, it eclipsed everything else that was going on in the country. The tragic development affected us all in unimaginable ways. Predicated on our value system and level of awareness, we took to it differently. The news cycle gave way to many streams and theories; the most prominent among those were:
1) Mental health –
Depression – Popular celebrities, from all walks of life, came forward and spoke about their stories of struggle and then triumph over the ailment. Which was very reassuring and I found it brave, especially because in our otherwise evolved society mental health is still a taboo. We surely need open and frequent discussions on it. And it helps when public figures spread awareness. Bipolar disorder also caught the public eye. As someone who has studied human behaviour, I found it pleasing (the discussion, not what had happened).
2) Nepotism -This is when the events took an ugly turn. The poster boy of Nepotism Karan Johar resurfaced, with him Salman Khan and others; the entire ’12th fail but popular and rich’ gang invaded public discourse. Growing rage against them on social media and drawing rooms became insane. The tone and the tenor of the discourse became very sad very quickly.

“The usual ban him/jail him/ kill him” – killed the mood!

I do not have access to the objective truth or the forensic details of the crime scene so I would not like to loosely speculate, on what might have transpired on that fateful night. What I do know that whatever happened was not good, we can’t conclude it in any other way.
My condolences to the bereaved family and I wish the departed soul eternal peace.

News cycle has moved on to other topics but I am stuck on the ‘Nepotism and favouritism’ debate with myself. It is a complicated matter, I could not form a firm opinion on it in the last 40 days. Partly, because we have more in common with the victim than those who are being accused of having abetted his suicide, that is what I began with. A fit of anger gripped me, the social arrangements looked like an old set of Amitabh, the angry young man who is out there to fight the immoral ‘system’ rising from the filth of poverty and deprivation. It is an easy stand to take. After all, it does not take a lot of work to demand the fashionable banning of the rich because someone with lesser privilege was coming out to be the victim, in this unfortunate incident.

Of course, my socialist upbringing was nudging to launch me into the streets. But I know that the majority is not always right and the popular view is almost always based on emotions and not rooted in facts. So, I gave my rush a rest and refrained from placing my views about the disaster in public, just yet. I wanted to think it over, over and over again – covering all bases, as it were. 40 days and a couple of hours of sleep sacrifice, later, I’m ready to participate in the raging debate.

बुरा जो देखन मैं चला, बुरा न मिलिया कोय, जो दिल खोजा आपना, मुझसे बुरा न कोय।

Kabir came to my rescue and I started analysing my journey to see if I have ever benefitted from nepotism and favouritism, in any way, shape or form? And I find that I have indeed gained from the social evil and as it turns out, quite substantially. All of us are a result of our circumstances and circumstances come out of our surroundings, the one that is constituted of our family, our friends our finances and our followings. Allow me to put before you an example, to make an argument.

Scenario 1 – A child is born in Damascus, Syria and is raised there. She learns to sketch and by the age of 10 creates impressive graffiti on the broken walls that pulls passersby to stop, watch and admire, her creations.

Scenario 2 – A kid is born in Notting Hill, London, England and is brought up there. She learns to sketch and by the age of 10 creates magnificent graffiti on pavements which entices walkers from around the world into stopping by, to watch, absorb and admire, her brilliant creations.

Try to analyse these circumstances, on all accounts, the girl in Syria will score better. Simply because she was born in a region where staying alive means taking every step being mindful of land mines and drone strikes. ‘Surviving’ each day there is an achievement in itself. There is a very high possibility that she either had one parent or perhaps grew up an orphan, she could be malnourished and does not know of a day in her life when blood-stained bodies did not cross her path. It won’t be wrong to guess that she could have taught herself sketching and draws because she has nothing else to do. We can’t be sure if she knows, different food items that are categorised as breakfast, lunch, and dinner – for her whenever food presented itself, it was time to eat. She is perpetually hungry and always in grave life-threatening danger.

Let’s contrast her case with the Notting hill kid. She lives in one of the best cities in the world in a developed economy. She wakes up to a busy street lashed with all the riches of the world; She hears about the latest video games and trending clothes. She does not eat Dark chocolate because White has her taste. She does not know what it is like to be hungry, to miss a meal or to be uncomfortable. Even if she is not from the top 5% of the city, she still has a room to herself, in a centrally warm apartment. Working and loving parents watch over her. She reads poetry and dreams of going to the mars one day. For her, walking out is a safe routine exercise – she sees parks full of jumping kids and an ocean of colourful toys. She goes to an elite school and is friends with kids from other happy homes. Her parents chose drawing as a development routine for her and she is aided by her painting teacher. Every time she sketches something interesting, she is greeted with compliments and praises. And chances are that she has also appeared in the local newspaper and radio shows.

Both of these talented kids are at the same level of craftsmanship and expertise – but will both of them end up the same way with their prowess? We know, they won’t

Talent is universal but ‘opportunity’ is not.

There is every possibility that Syrian kid if she does not die, will live a mediocre life of poverty and the Londoner could grow up into a globally revered and celebrated artist!

Can we hold one kid responsible for misery or success of the other? No!
Is this a fair world? No!

I recommend that you read “winners take all” by magnanimous, Anand Giridharadas. Our world is rigged inherently to favour the privileged and no one person or group is responsible for it. You might find it odd but human intelligence is to be blamed for it. We compare, and those who fair better or have more of what is considered valuable are acknowledged and labelled superior. The anointed superior takes charge and then creates a world to suit thier design. What follows is a repeat of the same rule. A couple of billions of cycles of repetition later and we are here in our current state of the world. It has its flaws and its flashes of brilliance both – signified on where we are at on the relevant scale of accepted value norms, we face life one way of the other.

We despise those above us and the ones below us in the value chain loathe us – that is the way of the world! This is not to say that injustice does not exist, it does. The fact is that every social misdoing is rooted in inequality.

Social structure is flawed and I see very little hope for it to get corrected because the infection runs deep and it gets more intense with every run of the day.

Nepotism, is a real thing and it is pure evil; but it is everywhere, even in our homes! Because most of us aren’t successful with fame or wealthy to the point of a stink, our biases do not become the talk of the town. We’re a deeply racist society that wears red tape as a badge of honour. It must CHANGE! It starts way early in our lives even before we know to spell the word or understand its meaning, let alone comprehending its implication on the society. I will give a few examples from my own life.

1) Back in school, if it ever happened that I had not done my homework, most teachers dropped registering school book remarks for non-completion for that day. Teachers loved me, consistent grades could have been the reason or something else, I do not know but the fact remains that others were discriminated against.
2) In the cafeteria, the guy on the counter prepared our order as we walked in, and in the process, he delayed the orders of the students who had placed their requests, even before we entered the facility. Why, because my friends and I looked a certain way, which he considered, ‘good boyish’ – that is it.
I will not list, other examples because it is beginning to sound narcissistic.

Fast forward, in the corporate world too, rules do not change by much.

Workplace favouritism is real but I don’t think that I am qualified to criticise it, because I’ve been a direct beneficiary of it, for most of my work life. Many of my supervisors have given me a little ‘extra’ and some of my team members are apple of my eye too. So how do I critique it without being hypocritical?

The thing is that no opinion is free of biases! Yes, we talk about data-based decision making and of rationality but we often avoid to mention, ‘selection of data’. Criteria are rigged to favour ‘the selected’ by those in the position of power, it is an open secret. I’ve to confess 80% of occasions in my life I’ve benefited from nepotism & favouritism. The other 20% when I was on the wrong side, it felt ‘funny’ like ‘tax’ on income. Whether we like it or not; an awful lot gets predisposed on the day of birth. The family and place of birth, economic conditions, and social stability of the region you grow up in -these either favour you or stifle your chances of success in the real world.

Should we let this hazard continue unabated? No, change is overdue.
Whether I’ve been fair in handing out rewards is for others to decide, I can’t be on the jury of my own case. But I wish to say that I actively try to not let my disagreement with someone become the reason for me to disqualify the dissenter. I don’t know how well I do on it but I do try. But at the same time let us not forget that nepotism can put someone on the stage but to win an audience the feet on the podium will need ‘talent‘ -so, learn, read, work on your craft; that is the only way to shine.

Don’t stop at accumulating information, convert intel into knowledge by putting them to practice. Don’t worry, about those who do not like you, you don’t need them all. Money, affluence and privilege can buy ‘comfort‘ and thankfully comfort is not seen as ‘success‘ by most even those who are not particularly gifted by way of intellect. You gotta sweat in the gym and then get beaten blue in the ring a few times before wearing the belt that reads your name in GOLD. So go hustle!

DREAM BIG, plan for them and act. When things do not manifest themselves as per your liking- sing!

कल अगर न रोशनी के काफ़िले हुए प्यार के हज़ार दीप हैं जले हुए देखा एक ख़्वाब …

And then DREAM AGAIN!

Remember for every Trump there is a Barack Hussain Obama. The background is not everything. When the all-powerful British empire ruled, Gandhi rose to the occasion to take down the oppressor. But both, Gandhi and Obama could win because they were both qualified men. Merit might take time but it prevails in the end, Knowledge is the currency of our century and however unjust the world might appear, unprivileged Abdul Kalam works his way up the ladder ringing the wheels of knowledge when the opportunity presents itself.

In this unjust and unequal world, investing in your skill is the way forward. When learning shines distractions and difficulties like nepotism fade in the background.

Till we meet again.